IN THEIR OWN WORDS: PATRON HIGHCROFT RACING In the landscape of American motorsports, it doesn't get much more glamorous than the Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend. After a sensational debut in 2007, the American Le Mans Series returns again this...
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: PATRON HIGHCROFT RACING
In the landscape of American motorsports, it doesn't get much more glamorous than the Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend. After a sensational debut in 2007, the American Le Mans Series returns again this weekend for the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, Round 3 of the 2008 season. In addition to title sponsorship of Saturday's race, Patron also is the primary sponsor of the Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b, which David Brabham and Scott Sharp will pilot in search of the team's first LMP2 victory. In preparation for the race, they discussed the challenges of the weekend.
Question: With Patron the title sponsor of the Long Beach round, what extra pressure or demands does that put on the team?
David Brabham: It doesn't put much more pressure on us - we are already very driven to win at Patron Highcroft Racing, no matter what the race. There is always positive pressure for the team to perform at its optimum level. The team just keeps getting better and better and we know we are getting closer to our first win.
Scott Sharp: We all really want a great finish and to take it to the next level. Because Patron is sponsoring the race, to nail the win at Long Beach couldn't be any sweeter. However, one of the things that impresses me the most about Patron Highcroft Racing is everyone's commitment and push at all times and at all levels - there doesn't need to be any extra incentive for this team to win a race as soon as possible
Q: How many changes go into the car between a track like Sebring and a street circuit like Long Beach? Are there drastic changes to the suspension, tire pressures, etc.?
SS: Certainly you have different demands on a street course for the Acura ARX-01b. Typically during a street race, there is very low grip so you're looking for a quick rotation in the car and to put the power down pretty hard. At a permanent course like Sebring, you have longer high-speed, high- grip corners and more stability in the car. But at a temporary street course like Long Beach, you are chasing the ever-changing grip.
DB: There are a fair amount of changes between a track and a street circuit - a lot of suspension, ride height, aerodynamic and tire pressure changes. We had a very strong setup at St. Petersburg, a street circuit, so we feel we're in good shape for Long Beach.
Q: Coming off second place at St. Petersburg, how much more needs to be done to beat both the Penske Porsches?
DB: We're getting closer and closer. We do need to improve more but we've been making huge strides in all areas over the last 12 months. We are coming up to Long Beach with a car that has performed very well on street circuits. Since it's hard to pass on street circuits, we need to be sharp and pit stops have to be perfect. The team has been working very hard over the winter and, as a result, our pit stops are much tighter. So between that and improving our setup, we will keep edging closer.
SS: The Penske Spyders are really tough and seem to have the complete package right now but I think we showed some great flashes of speed at Sebring and in St. Pete. We just need to keep pushing and the results will come - if we can keep making improvements each week that first win will come soon.
Q: David has raced in all four Series classes. Scott raced the works Corvette in 1999 at Sebring and Petit Le Mans. How different is it being one of the cars that makes a majority of passes rather than being mindful and aware of the prototypes in a GT car?
SS: Driving a P2 car, I take my hat off to the guys in the GT categories - we're almost running two different races out there! They're looking in the mirror constantly; it's nice to be in the fast car and looking forward all the time!
DB: Driving as P1 or P2 is definitely easier than a GT car on any track but particularly the street courses. When a GT is looking in their mirror, a prototype is all of a sudden right behind them - everyone has to be hyper aware. We got through the race very well at St Petersburg with the traffic. If we can do the same at Long Beach, we will be in good shape.
Q: Any special memories of previous races at Long Beach?
DB: Last year was the first time I raced at Long Beach. It was exciting both because of the history of the event and also because my brother Geoff raced there. Last year, we had so little time before the race that I didn't have much time to learn the circuit. I was still learning it during the race. So I am glad that the team and I have last year's experience under our belts which should give us a strong shot at winning.
SS: Long Beach has always been a circuit that I have really liked. But since I was last here, with the circuit being reconfigured, only three of the corners are the same. I was on the pole at Long Beach in a Trans-Am battle with Robby Gordon in 1992. I went there in a handful of CART races in the 90s and was the fourth quickest the first day I got there. So it's always been a good circuit for me.
The Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, Round 3 of the 2008 season, is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. PT on Saturday, April 19 from the famed Long Beach street circuit. ABC will broadcast the race from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 20. XM Satellite Radio will provide coverage on Channel 144 from 7 to 9 p.m. ET Saturday, April 19. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage of the race at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring.